Right man for the job

  • Thursday, June 9, 2011 12:01am
  • Sports

MUKILTEO — With the departure of Harbour Pointe Golf Club general manager Mark Rashell earlier this year, the top job came open at one of the premier public golf courses in the Puget Sound area.

Oki Golf, which owns and operates Harbour Pointe, began a diligent search for a new GM. They eval

uated several candidates, even bringing in one to interview from out of state, but in the end selected someone from their own backyard.

Keith Coleman, who grew up in Edmonds and lives today in Mukilteo, took over for Rashell (who became director of golf at The Golf Club at Newcastle) on an in

terim basis in February and was formally hired in late March. As general manager, the 41-year-old Coleman will oversee Harbour Pointe’s entire operation, from the clubhouse to the restaurant to the turf crew.

And for Coleman, a 1988 graduate of Meadowdale High School, it’s all familiar ground.

He started at Harbour Pointe as a part-time college student back in 1990, became a full-time member of the turf crew in 1991, was promoted to assistant superintendent in 1996, and has been the head superintendent for the past 13 years. He is also a Class A PGA of America professional who is trained in teaching, merchandising, accounting and all the other aspects of running a successful golf operation.

“I’m still making sure things are being taken care of, and getting on the right track of what I want to have happen,” Coleman said of his new role. “But I’ve been around the business a long time and I’ve learned from a lot of good people about what to do and also what not to do. So now it’s just a matter of implementing the things I know that work and then maybe trying some things on my own.

“I’ve also got a great staff,” he said. “A lot of them have been with me for years and they know (what needs to be done).”

Oki Golf director of operations Simon Wheeler said Coleman turned out to be a logical hire. Not only does he have the dual training of a PGA pro and superintendent, Wheeler said, “but Keith knows his membership and he knows his local golfers. And for us that piece is always very important. … He came with a huge history and a real continuity (at Harbour Pointe).”

Since being hired, Coleman has been faced with a lengthy to-do list, leaving him little choice but to roll up his sleeves — at times, literally. Just last week he was helping slap a new coat of paint on the walls of the Harbour Pointe clubhouse.

A GM’s job, he confided, is “not even close” to a traditional 40-hour work week. He is generally at the golf course six days a week and often works late hours on Sunday so he can squeeze in an off-day on Monday.

He typically oversees a staff of 70 to 100, depending on the time of year, and in the coming months he hopes to reduce his burden by hiring a new head golf pro and a new superintendent.

Since starting at Harbour Pointe years ago, Coleman always envisioned a career in golf, although his original dream included time on the PGA Tour.

“I had ambitions of playing on tour,” acknowledged Coleman, who won the Washington Open in 1997 as an amateur and again in 2004 as a pro, “but life sometimes gets in the way.”

For him that meant family commitments, although “looking back I don’t think that there’s something I missed,” he said. “I mean, would I have liked to have played on the tour? Yeah, that would’ve been fun, but it didn’t work out.

“In the future, maybe going out on the senior tour might be an option. But for now I’m content with where I am. I can look at what I aspired to be and now where I (am), and think, ‘OK, this is pretty cool.’ … Will I do this forever? Will it be five years or 10 years? Who knows? But my plan is to be here as long as they’ll allow me to be here.”

Like virtually every other public course in western Washington, Harbour Pointe has been hurt by a lagging economy and, in the last year, uncommonly adverse weather. The course had close to 37,000 rounds a year ago, which was about 2,500 less than budgeted and more than 10,000 below a peak year in the early 1990s.

What gives Coleman hope is a faithful core of golfers who make Harbour Pointe their home, including one of the largest and most active men’s clubs in Snohomish County.

In his five-year vision, Coleman foresees “a golf course that will be dryer and more playable throughout the winter and spring months, which in turns gives you more revenue. So (we want to make) continual course improvements while keeping the greens phenomenal because that’s obviously one of the big priorities.”

But a second and equally important part of the equation is a continuing emphasis on customer service.

That goal, he said, “is about making people feel welcome here. Because we really have a family atmosphere set up with how we treat people and how they treat us. So we want to improve the playability of the course and then for the staff to continue creating that family feel. Because it’s amazing how far that goes.”

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